Compactness Lawsuit

(June 30, 2017)

Briefs filled in support of compactness lawsuit:

Brief of Amici Curiae VA AGs

Brief of Amici Curiae – Legal Scholars

Brief of Amicus Curiae League of Women Voters of Virginia

(May 23, 2017)

We aren’t finished fighting.  “Compact” is in our Virginia Constitution and it has to mean something, not just anything the General Assembly says it does.  We filed our Petition for Appeal today to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

(April 1, 2017)

Judge Marchant issued an opinion on our case. He denied our motion for the contested districts to determined unconstitutional, but there is still reason for hope. Below is a statement from our attorney, Wyatt Durrette.

“Naturally, the outcome is a disappointment. However, two key aspects of Judge Marchant’s opinion are critically important for the future and will affect the ability of the legislature to gerrymander in the future to the extent they did in 2011. First, he found Dr. McDonald’s Predominance Test ‘to merit serious consideration.’ Judge Marchant also stated ‘in fact, the court finds some degree of persuasiveness to both the test and Dr. McDonald’s conclusions.’ Second, he agreed with our position that ‘the Supreme Court of Virginia has [never] established a constitutionally accepted score for measuring the priority given to compactness in drawing legislative districts.’ This is exactly opposite to the interpretation placed on prior Supreme Court opinions by the General Assembly and its lawyers. The importance of this interpretation cannot be over emphasized.

So, while we are disappointed that the court did not resolve the case in our favor, Judge Marchant has given those who supported this effort significant help in continuing this battle for redistricting reform. As for where we go from here, it is too early to say for sure but an appeal is most likely.”

(March 17, 2017)

We have finished up our trial and feel good about our chances. Check out the trial transcripts to read some of the things that were said.

(FEB. 22, 2017)

A lot has happened since resolving discovery issues this summer with the 6 Senators who opposed transparency and fought to keep their redistricting documents secret. The trial is rapidly approaching.

We have hired one of the most well-respected experts in the business, Dr. Michael McDonald, to testify about how far the Legislature went to avoid following the Virginia Constitution’s requirement to draw compact districts. Dr. McDonald is currently a professor at the University of Florida, was formerly at George Mason, and even helped with Governor McDonnell’s Bipartisan Redistricting Commission (which the legislature promptly ignored). He has helped us develop a novel theory, finally showing mathematically that the Legislature was more concerned with drawing districts that met their personal preferences than with following our Constitution. You can check out his report below.

Having seen his report, the attorneys for the Defendants and the House of Delegates have filed motions arguing that the Court shouldn’t look at any new and smart analysis regarding compactness or even have a trial to hear all the facts, but instead should just let the legislature draw districts as they see fit. In the coming days we will file our response to their motions arguing that the Court should move forward to trial, look to the facts, and decide for itself what the Virginia Constitution requires. The Court will hear arguments on these motions on February 28th and March 3rd.

If all goes well, we are looking forward to trial the week of March 13th.

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Redistricting Complaint

January 7th Press Release

The 11 House & Senate Districts being sued: (6& 5D)

1) House District 13, Del. Marshall (R-Prince William)
2) House District 22, Del. Byron (R-Lynchburg)
3) House District 48, Del. Sullivan (D-Fairfax)
4) House District 72, Del. Massie (R-Henrico)
5) House District 88, Del. Cole (R-Spotsylvania)

6) Senate District 19, Sen. Suetterlein (R-Salem)
7) Senate District 21, Sen. Edwards (D-Roanoke)
8) Senate District 28, Sen. Stuart (R-King George)
9) Senate District 29, Sen. McPike (D-Manassas)
10) Senate District 30, Sen. Ebbin (D-Arlington)
11) Senate District 37, Sen. Marsden (D-Fairfax)

January 7th Hearing Documents

2015 12-10 Intervenors Motion to Quash, Memo in Sprt, etc
2015 12-17 FINAL Pltf’s Memo in Oppo to Motions to Quash
2015 12-31 Defendant-Intervenors’ Reply in Further Support of Motion to Quash
2015 12-31 Senate Reply Brief

Opinion on January 7th Hearing
2016 01-29 Letter Opinion re MTStay & MTQuash

 Other Documents

2016.01.29 – Va Vesilind Letter Opinion

2016.04.26 – Motion to Certify Appeal to SCVA
2016.04.26 – Memo in Spt of M to Certify Appeal to SCVA

2016.04.27 – Briefing Schedule

News:

No Stay for State Redistricting Challenge
VA Lawyers Weekly
New front opens in legal fight over gerrymandering
Jeff Schapiro, The Richmond Times-Dispatch

 

Support Our Litigation

Court asked to reject rigged, twisted political districts, enforce Va. Constitution’s requirement of compactness

RICHMOND, Sept. 14 – A group of citizens from across Virginia asked the Richmond Circuit Court today to declare that the General Assembly districts in which they live – misshapen and rigged to benefit one candidate over another – violate the state Constitution’s requirement that election districts must be compact.

Backed by the non-partisan redistricting reform group OneVirginia2021, the lawsuit argues that principles in the Virginia Constitution must be given priority over such political considerations as a district’s tendency to support one party or the other in previous elections, or whether the incumbent likes the boundaries.

Article II, Section 6, of the Virginia Constitution commands:  “Every election district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory.”

“The General Assembly unlawfully and unnecessarily subordinated compactness to policy considerations that lack constitutional authority,” the lawsuit says, referring to the legislature’s drawing of the political map in 2011. “In striving to protect incumbents and gain partisan advantage, the constitutional requirement that every district be compact was rarely, if ever, considered.”

That harms the plaintiffs by taking away their constitutional right to live and vote in a compact legislative district, the lawsuit argues.

“Like the other two requirements in the state Constitution – equal population and contiguity – compactness can be measured and held to a reasonable standard,” said Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021. “Far from having a standard, the legislature effectively ignored the Constitution on this point, and gave us distorted, weirdly shaped districts that break up communities and rig elections by depriving voters of meaningful competition.”

The lawsuit doesn’t ask to block the upcoming election on Nov. 3, but if it eventually succeeds, it would have the court bar future General Assembly elections until the political map is redrawn to comply with the Constitution’s compactness requirement.

“The suit is not aimed at any member of the General Assembly,” Cannon said, “but at the unconstitutional process and the unfair results.” Defendants are the Virginia State Board of Elections and its officers.

The lead attorney in the suit is Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., a respected trial lawyer and former Republican candidate for governor.

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The images below are of every district that is involved in our lawsuit.

House District 13
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House District 22
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House District 48
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